BOK CHOY
CARE: Store at 32-34 degrees for five to seven days. Do not ice.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE: Bok choy is low in calories, an excellent source of vitamin A and rich in vitamin C and calcium.
AVAILABILITY: Year-round

(Jan. 26) Thank television cooking shows and cooking magazines for making bok choy and napa cabbage popular among consumers of all ethnicities.

Grown in China since the fifth century, bok choy is thought to be one of the original parent lines of michill and napa cabbages and was brought to the U.S. by Chinese immigrants.

With a long, crisp, white stalk and dark green leaves, bok choy bears little resemblance to other more traditional cabbages like red and green varieties. Also called pak choy, white cabbage, Chinese chard and Chinese mustard cabbage, bok choy is available in a baby variety, as well.

Popular in soups and stir-fry, bok choy also can be eaten raw in salads or out-of-hand, says Chris Stoll, international produce buyer at the single Jungle Jim’s store in Fairfield, Ohio. He says cooking enhances bok choy’s flavor while allowing the stalk to maintain its crispness. Jungle Jim’s demos bok choy in stir-fry so customers can sample the item. Stoll also places recipe cards near a 3-foot, stainless steel rack of bok choy to give customers cooking ideas.

Jerry Larabee, produce manager at the Omaha, Neb., Hy-Vee Food Store, part of the 216-store chain based in West Des Moines, Iowa, displays bok choy with napa cabbage in a variety bunch section with items like beets and kohlrabi. Sales of both cabbages double when Larabee places them on sale at 49 cents per pound. They are regularly priced at 69 cents per pound.

Sue Grier, general manager of Sanwa International Wholesale Foods, Wimauma, Fla., suggests retailers educate consumers about the nutritional value of bok choy and napa cabbage. Both are loaded with vitamins A and C and are low in sodium, she says.

NAPA CABBAGE
CARE: Store at 32-34 degrees for five to seven days. Do not ice.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE: Napa cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, low in calories and rich in vitamin A and potassium.
AVAILABILITY: Year-round

Napa cabbage, also known as celery cabbage or Chinese cabbage, has pale green to white leaves crinkling outward from white celerylike stalks and veins. Its flavor combines those of cabbage, iceberg lettuce and celery.

Napa cabbage is a popular addition to soups, stews, salads, stir-fry and slaws, says Ludgero Bonina, produce operations manager at the single Stong’s Market Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The store displays 45 to 50 pounds of napa cabbage on a 2-square-foot refrigerated display near other cabbages, celery and carrots. He says to trim both cabbages daily.

Tristan Millar, director of marketing for Frieda’s Inc., Los Alamitos, Calif., suggests cross-merchandising napa cabbage with egg roll wrappers, bean sprouts and recipe cards so customers can find the ingredients to make egg rolls in one location.

Vito Antonucci, produce merchandiser at Foodmart International Inc., a group of four stores based in Jersey City, N.J., says although the chain’s Linden, N.J., store has a separate Asian produce section with 4 feet each of napa cabbage and bok choy, both are becoming popular among Americans because of cookbooks and magazines.

Sales double when the store prices napa cabbage at 3 pounds for $1, he says. It is regularly priced at 59 to 69 cents per pound.

Along with cooking shows and magazines, Jungle Jim’s Stoll credits the popularity increase to fast-food restaurants’ salads that contain napa cabbage. Customers try to recreate these items at home, he says.

Stoll displays napa cabbage with bok choy, daikon, lo bok and yellow chives. He suggests not misting napa cabbage because of its tendency to spot.